100% Vegetable Tanned Cowhide Leather
The first step in the making of a KearaJean handbag is finding quality tooling leather. Often times cowhide sides are susceptible to imperfections, such as brand marks, scratches, discoloration, and insect bites. Obtaining a piece that is smooth, that will allow for flawless carving and that will take well to the dye is crucial. Another consideration is the thickness of the leather. Depending on the heaviness of the hardware to be used and the shape design features such as size and handle sturdiness, the thickness may vary between 4/5 oz and 6/7 oz.
Deciding Size and Style
While there is a range of handbag sizes in the KearaJean line, the majority in the current collection have a rounded shape with a wraparound connecting the front and back. Varying features include cut out handles and different shaped closure tabs. All KearaJean shape designs are original and first sketched out on graphic poster board. Once the intended shape and size are set, it is time to trace it onto the leather using such aids as acrylic templates and rulers so that the measurements for all pieces are accurate. An exacto knife makes the initial precision cuts and then scissors are used to make the final clean cut out.
Measuring and Prepping
Hole Punching and Placing Hardware
After all the necessary pieces of leather are cut out, it is time to measure and determine where the holes will be individually hand punched for later stitching the handbag together with lace and latigo. This leaves no room for error as a wrong hole punch or off-centered measurement can be difficult to correct. Now is also a good time to determine the placement of the desired hardware to be used and the manner in which embellishments will be attached.
Transferring and Tracing Design
One of the defining features of KearaJean handbags is the break away from traditional western designs typically associated with tooled leather. The main objective is to use something that will look unique once it is carved onto the leather. Whether they are intricate, flowery, scenic, ornamental or modern, the design sets each bag apart. Embellishments on some bags, such as a scarf or antique accessory, may also serve as inspiration for the design to be used. On rare occasions the design may be freehanded onto the leather, but more often it is traced on for precision and accuracy. Licensed vectors serve as the design inspiration on many bags and are often manipulated in software programs to make it unique to each bag. The same design may look completely different on another bag due to the selection of stamping and beveling tools, various dyeing techniques, placement, etc.
Carving and Tooling
Stamping Imprints and Adding Dimension
One of the most exciting steps in creating a KearaJean handbag is carving and tooling the leather to bring about depth and dimension to the design. Carving requires a delicate hand that can control the swivel knife and result in clean cuts that create a three dimensional appearance on a two dimensional surface. A signature stamp of the KearaJean logo is placed on every piece to assure quality and build recognition of the brand. Depending on the look and level of intricate detail desired, there is a whole array of tools that can stamp and imprint shapes and effects onto the leather. One thing to keep in mind during carving and tooling is that leather is very unforgiving. Make one cut or stamp in the wrong place and you'll have to find some way to work around it.
Dyeing, Top Finishes and Conditioning
Leather water-based dyes, oil dyes, and antique gels create the rich and natural colors of KearaJean handbags. One aspect unique to the current collection is that all the colors fall into shades of brown as they evoke an organic feel inherent to leather. Coloring can be tricky at times as the products may absorb into the leather differently and the results may not end up as planned. Flexibility and creativity can help correct those surprises. When the desired color is achieved, every piece is completed with a water-repellent top finish that provides a glossy sheen.
*As with all leather, frequent application of conditioner to your KearaJean handbag is highly recommended to keep the leather soft and prevent premature aging and cracking.
Finishing The Interior
Selecting the Lining Material
The interior of KearaJean handbags are finished with soft suede or pigskin lining. Dark brown suede is the most popular option, however the shade is chosen based on how it complements the coloring of the handbag. In some cases, the interior may be left unlined to show off the natural beauty of the leather.
Assembly & Touchups
Lacing and Adding Hardware
After the dyeing and lining is complete, it is time to pick the color lace, latigo, and thread that best complements the piece. Hardware is then securely attached and any final touchups are made before the piece is ready to be labeled a KearaJean handbag.